Why do cats always land on their feet?

Cats have this impressive ability to land (almost always) on their feet due to their great flexibility. A scientist looked into the subject in 1984. Explanations with our columnist Kristofer in The 8/9 continues.

Using a chronophotographic camera, which takes 60 images per second, the French scientist Etienne-Jules Marey tracked every move of a falling cat in slow motion. He then studied what is called cat’s righting reflex which takes place in 3 phases.

First phase : the cat’s brain sends an order to the muscles of its neck. This is why, as soon as the cat turns its head, thanks to all its senses, it will coordinate its fall and thus assess the distance. He will locate himself in space.

Second phase : the body follows the rotation of its head. As soon as his head turns (for example by 60 degrees), his body has the reflex to turn at the same time.

Third phase : it folds its front legs and extends its hind legs. It thus produces a kind of spring that cushions its fall, all in a fraction of a second.

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